Two Dunstan firefighters are stepping up to support their Canadian counterparts.

Tony Smith, of Clyde, and Ewan Richmond, of Alexandra, headed to Alberta last week as part of a 21-strong group of New Zealand firefighting personnel helping to fight wildfires which are devastating parts of Canada.

They are the second group of New Zealand firefighters sent to Canada — 25 personnel left on May 24.

Speaking to the The News from Auckland before they flew out, both said they were looking forward to the experience.

A veteran firefighter of 25 years, Mr Smith said the hardest part was not knowing what to expect.

‘‘At the moment we don’t exactly know what we’re doing, what area we’re going to be . . .I think things are quite fluid over there at the moment.

‘‘There’s usually is a lot of media coverage [when fire fighting] in Australia, but when I tell people we are heading to Canada, they are surprised to hear there are big fires there at the moment,’’ he said.

For Mr Richmond, the five-week deployment would be the longest he had spent away from wife Tracy.

‘‘She’s been really supportive — both my kids are really excited for me going too,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve got a few nerves, but when we get there it will be fine.’’

His workplace PGG Wrightson was also behind him.

‘‘They’re being really supportive too. It’s a long time I’m away from work, but it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and I’m really thankful they’re letting me go,’’ he said.

Southern deployment . . . An Otago and Southland contingent of firefighters left for Canada yesterday to help battle wildfires devasting parts of thecountry. Pictured are (back from left) Pete Leckie (Dunedin), Keri Tuna (Invercargill), Chris McLeod (Dunedin), and Ken Keenan (Invercargill). Front from left Ewan Richmond (Alexandra), and Tony Smith (Clyde). PHOTO: FIRE AND EMERGENCY NEW ZEALAND

Fire and Emergency New Zealand deputy national commander Steph Rotarangi said it took the responsibility of providing international firefighting support seriously, but also saw value in using the experience to improve firefighters’ skills.

‘‘These deployments are extremely valuable for our firefighters and firefighting specialists. It gives them experience in different environments that they can bring back home.’’